After visiting the Haghpat monastery again we set off for Ahtarak,which is back towards Yerevan. Another day and of course more monasteries and churches, Saghnosovank and then Hovhanovank monasteries were onteh drive. These were in sight of each other but a big gorge away, both in stunning settings. The first pretty inside the second built right on the edge of the gorge.
Just outside the town of Ashtarak is Muhinj, or Saint George's church, a lovely stripy church with bands of red and black brickwork, this time in a garden setting.
The last church of the day was my favourite, a tiny 9th century church of Saint Mary, known for its lovely frescoes inside. Two elderly ladies sitting there trying to chat with us but no common language! Opposite is a delightful cafecalled Pascal and Diodato, sitting high above the town.
The aim the next day was to hike up to the south peak of Mt Aragats (3,888 m). First was a windey steep road of about 45 mins drive, up to Lake Kari (3,200m), from where the walk started. All was going well until part way up the fuel gauge suddenly jumped from a quartertank
to zero with flashing lights! We turned around and hoped the needle would jump up again now the car was facing downhill-no luck. So we had to drive all the way back down, put some petrol in, then drive all the way back, ending up being about an hour and a half later starting than we had planned. Not a problem with the long days. We used an app called Maps.me to help us find our way as there were no trail markings, very 21st century for us! It was a good walk, very open landscape, clear skies too. We were surprised how much snow we had to walk across and how deep it still was. The mountain is a big volcano, and there are others around, including Ararat which we could see quite clearly in the distance. We stopped after about 2 ½ hours climbing up as the snow became very deep and steep for the final ascent of a a few hundred metres. After a picnic we walked down and across up to a ridge, this gave us views over to the other side and the big crater over there. In the 5 or so hours we were
out we only met 5 other people! Back at the lake where a hotel sits there were a few people swimming- it must have been freezing!
On the way up the mountain to the lake there are quite a few summer camps of herders with their cattle, sheep, horses and bees. We gave a happy shepherd a lift up the second time we drove up, I think he was suprised to find two foreigners in a Lada!
Part of the way down is a turning to Ambered Fort. There’s not much left of it but in another stunning location on the edge of a canyon, worth the side visit.
Very pleasant two days here. The guest house is set in a pretty fruit garden with an area to relax. The host is very knowledgeable with good English, he also showed how he was making his homemade apricot vodka.
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